Western Ghats constitutes one of the four Biodiversity Hotspots of India which is one of the richest centers of endemism. Western Ghats locally known as the Sahyadri hills cover an area of about 1, 60,000 Km2 and stretch for 1,600 Km. from Gujarat in the north to the southern tip of India. They are highlands running through the states of Maharashtra, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.
The Bhimashankar Wildlife Sanctuary is situated in the Western Ghats. There are a total of 24 Wildlife Sanctuaries in the state of Maharashtra, Bhimashankar being one of them. Wildlife Sanctuary status for Bhimashankar was notified by the Government of Maharashtra on 10th October, 1985 under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. The area of the sanctuary is around 13,078 Ha and is situated at an altitude ranging from 650-1,140 m. with latitude and longitude of 19014.47’ N and 73035.15’ S respectively. It is located in Khed Taluka and is spread over the districts of Pune, Raigad and Thane in the state of Maharashtra.
Bhimashankar Wildlife Sanctuary holds cultural, religious and historic significance. It houses around 14 sacred groves which are protected by the local people because of spiritual reasons. This place is of religious importance because of the presence of one of the 12 Jyotirlingas found in India. The Bhimashankar temple is flooded by people during the important religious events such as Diwali,Mahashivrati and Holi. This area also marks the origin of Rivers Bhima & Ghod, which are tributaries to River Krishna.
Biodiversity at Bhimashankar Wildlife Sanctuary
The forest types of this Bhimashankar Wildlife Sanctuary vary from deciduous to semi evergreen to evergreen. The sanctuary offers a large variety of endemic flora and fauna. The major flora of the sanctuary includes Teak, Sal, Palas, Tendu, Harad, Imli etc. These are used by the local people for various purposes. The study area was selected because of the importance of Western Ghats at an international level as these have recently been added to the list of World Heritage Sites by UNESCO. The study was conducted during February, 2013. The important tree species were identified and the ones which were endemic to the area were identified with the help of the local people. Furthermore, the data regarding the ethno medical uses of the species was retrieved from similar works conducted in various regions of Western Ghats, mainly in the state of Maharashtra. The uses find similarity along the whole belt. Thus, information from different sources was used and then compiled together along with the data collected from the site. Such studies are also useful to know about the various ethno medical uses of the species found in the concerned region and to supplement to the existing knowledge of uses in the pharmaceutical industry.
It is a home to the state animal of Maharashtra, the Giant Squirrel, (Ratufa indica elphistonii) locally known as Shekru. The other animals found in this area include mouse deer, wild boar, leopard, barking deer, sambar, striped hyena, golden jackal etc. This area has been notified as an Important Bird Area (IBA) by the Bird Life International. This area has been notified as an Important Bird Area (IBA) by the Bird Life International. It provides habitat to critical species, viz., White backed and long billed Vultures. It has got a huge diversity of avifauna including the Greater Spotted Eagle, Nilgiri Wood Pigeon, Malabar Parakeet, Malabar Grey Hornbill, Small Sunbird etc.
Ethnomedical uses of plant species Bhimashankar Wildlife sanctuary
Review of previous studies
The information on Bhimashankar Wildlife sanctuary has been obtained from the reviews and articles on this sanctuary by various pilgrims, tourists and nature lovers such as Shivkar A. (2008) and Kalpavriksh Environment Action Group (Ananthrajan Madhuvanti et al .2009).
The ethno medical uses of the major plant species of this region have not yet been explored, but the uses by tribes residing in the similar areas have been mentioned in the present report in order to assess the importance of these species at a local as well as at a national level. Similar studies on ethno medical uses of various tree species in Maharashtra have been carried out by Gupta Rakhi et al (2010), Pawas Shubhangi et al (2004), Rothe S.P. (2012), Survase S.A. (2011), Singh E.A. (2012), Patil U.J. et al (2011) and Patil & Patil (2011).
Methodology for the assessment
The study was conducted during February, 2013. The important tree species were identified and the ones which were endemic to the area were identified with the help of the local people. Around 10 local people were interviewed informally regarding the local names of the species. Furthermore, the data regarding the ethno medical uses of the species was retrieved from similar works conducted in various regions of Western Ghats, mainly in the state of Maharashtra. The uses find similarity along the whole belt. Thus, information from different sources was used and then compiled together along with the data collected from the site.
Results & discussions
The major plant species of Bhimashankar Wildlife Sanctuary along with their respective ethno medical uses are:
Teak (Tectona grandis): 20 g of stem bark paste mixed with 1 tumbler of water and is taken internally after dinner for a week against stomach ache and dysentery.
Mango (Mangifera indica): The bark paste of the tree is mixed with lime to cure dysentery. Raw fruit paste along with the fruits of Terminalia bellerica and Terminalia chebula in the ratio of 1:1:1 is mixed with honey to cure cough in children.
Harad (Terminalia chebula): The roasted fruit is powdered and is mixed with honey to prevent cough. The paste prepared from the fruit is applied thrice a day for around a week to work against muscular dislocation.
Bel (Aegle marmelos): Commonly known as stone apple, it doesn’t only hold religious significance, but is also used to treat the person affected by a snake bite. In case of a snake bite, juice of the leaves is applied on the affected part and squeezed leaves are eaten, which helps to avoid nausea.
Palas (Butea monosperma): The seeds of this tree along with fruits of Emblica officinalis are crushed and further homogenized in ghee and sugar. This mixture is administered against urine complaints and intestinal worms.
Baheda (Terminalia bellerica): The unripe fruit is given to cure piles and fistula. Apart from this, it is considered as one of the most important ingredients in Trifla which forms an important medicine in Ayurveda along with Terminalia chebula and Emblica officinalis.
Semal (Bombax ceiba): The paste of the bark is used against skin eruption. The extract of the leaves has antifungal property and is used against ringworms. It is also known to treat inflammation by applying a paste prepared from the bark of the tree along with cow dung. The inner white portion of the bark is crushed and is made to a fine paste using around 30-50 ml of water and is administered in the morning, preferably empty stomach for two days to treat diarrhea.
Tendu (Diospyros melanoxylon): The juice extracted from the leaves is taken orally to treat diarrhea. The leaves of this tree are used for wrapping tobacco and making beedis or the Indian cigar.
The desi badam (Terminalia catappa):This was one of the most different trees encountered in the region. It is the local almond known to have various uses. Juice obtained from the leaves is used to treat scabies, skin diseases and leprosy. Ripe fruits are used in travel nausea while bark in used against mouth and throat problems and stomach up sets, dysentery and fever.
Tarwar (Cassia auriculata): The flower buds of this tree along with parched gram are eaten 3-4 times a day as a remedy to treat jaundice.
Anjir/ Fig (Ficus carica): The juice extracted from the fruits along with honey is effective treatment for hemorrhage. It is also used to treat gout and cure piles. The leaves are used to treat jaundice.
Khair (Acacia catechu): The paste of the bark of this tree provides an effective remedy against conjunctivitis and the bark is even useful to treat snake bites.
Apart from these plants, there are certain shrubs as well which find their place in the ethno medicinal uses by the local people. These are the following:
Bhamani (Colebrookia oppositifolia):The leaf extract is used to treat wounds
The Spanish flag (Lantana camara):This weed has highly proliferated in the region; still the local people have managed to use the shrub for certain medicinal purposes. The whole plant along with the culm sheaths of bamboo is applied twice a day for around 4 days to cure the external wounds and injuries.
Nirgundi (Vitex negundo): It finds mention in one of the most ancient document of Ayurveda which is Charaka Samhita. The crushed leaves are applied to remove headache, sinusitis and sore throat. It also helps to reduce swellings when administered internally along with sugarcane vinegar.
Nilkanta (Duranta repens): This shrub is known to have antifungal properties. It is lethal to the mosquito larvae and is used locally to treat malaria.
Aak (Calotropis gigentia):The seed extract is used against cough and fever. Latex obtained by the plant is mixed with cow ghee and is poured into the nose to cure migraine.The crushed paste of roots is used to treat snake bite wound.
The study was conducted to know about the relevance of these species which helps to gauge the importance of such biodiversity rich regions and could further help to strengthen their protection by spreading awareness and by promoting a sense of responsibility among those who visit such places for recreational or study purposes. Such studies are also useful to know about the various ethno medical uses of the species found in the concerned region and to supplement to the existing knowledge of uses in the pharmaceutical industry.
Ms. Bhavika Sharma: A research Scholar at Himalayan Forest Research Institute (HFRI), Shimla specializing in the subject of Ecology and Environment. She did her masters in the field of Environment Science & her graduation in the field of Microbial and Food Technology from Panjab University, Chandigarh. She is currently working in field of air pollution and is a key member of an NGO operating in Himachal Pradesh. She likes to utilize her free time in writing on current issues related to environment.